Kawanishi H8K (Emily) Reconnaissance / Bomber Flying Boat Aircraft
The Kawanishi H8K Emily was arguably the best flying boat of the Second World War - considered by many to be on par with even the excellent British Short Sunderland.
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The Empire of Japan seemed to be producing its best aircraft designs of the war towards the end of the conflict. The Kawanishi H8K (codenamed "Emily" by the Allies) was such an example. Bred to take the reigns of the similar but wholly outclassed Kawanishi H6K already in service, the H8K was developed to a new 1938 specification. The resulting design proved to be one of the more feared and respected Japanese weapons in the Pacific. If one would consider the type to be nothing more than a lumbering flying boat, you would overlook the impressive cannon armament, outstanding range, good performance capabilities and offensive firepower long enough to see that even American submarines were at the mercy of the "Emily".
The shortcomings of the H6K type were highly known by now, so much so that the Kawanishi company set about to right the wrongs with the addition of the H6K5 to the production line. Unfortunately, the ship of the H6K had already sailed and the H8K was designed to a new need. The H8K was characterized but its stout fuselage and single vertical tail fin. The cockpit sat high just forward of the shoulder-mounted wing assembly housing 4 x Mitsubishi brand engines of 1,850 horsepower (H8K2). As a land-based operator the H8K could call upon smallish wheels while under wing pontoons served it well on water. Initially, the H8K was found to be a poor performer in the latter role but service trials eventually ironed out the defects and the legend of the H8K was made.
Flying boats are not a weapon that one thinks of when considering the best offensive options available in a war but the H8K changed that thinking. Defensive armament was initially 4 x 7.7mm machine guns and 2 x 20mm cannons. Later developments would give rise to a 4 x 7.7mm and 5 x 20mm cannon-armed derivative in the H8K2 model. Add to this the improved armor protection, impressive speed and range and the ability to deliver torpedoes or bombs and you have a recipe for a true winner. The H8K was particularly effective in the anti-submarine role when married to an ASW radar, finding and sinking several American submarines during the course of its combat life.
The H8K, like the H6K before it, also appeared in dedicated transport roles either for VIp staff or combat ready troops. In the troop carrying role, the H8K could support up to 64 soldiers. These types are characterized with the "L" in their designation. Only four of the aircraft survive to war's end.